People in glass houses... Resident objects to cycle hire's "horrible lump of metal"

An angry Mayfair resident has objected to a docking station for London's new cycle hire scheme being installed in one of the city's most prestigious streets, and plans to take his fight against it to the High Court.
Noel Carroll, 63, of South Street, Westminster states on the BBC News website that "Our beautiful conservation area must not be defaced by this horrible lump of metal.. ...It would bring down this very beautiful place. It would not be a very pretty sight."  The disputed 24-bike docking station will be sited between South Audley Street and Mount Street Gardens; currently an area of public highway outside prestigious private member's club Harry's Bar.


Mr Carroll is asking for leave to appeal an initial decision to dismiss his legal challenge against the docking station at the High Court on the grounds that the Council failed to assess the environmental impact of the docking station on the Conservation Area.

I know this area very well, and was surprised that the installation of a cycle docking station here might inspire such strong feelings in an individual.  Had the Council made a planning error?  Were they about to ruin one of London's most beautiful streets?  I made some investigations to find out...

The station, which will be one of 400 or so popping up all over Zone 1 over the next few weeks, was originally granted planning permission by Westminster Council in August last year.  The site, which according to Mr Carroll will be "defaced by this horrible lump of metal" is in fact public carriageway with a single yellow line presently used most often by private chauffeurs waiting for their clients shopping on nearby Mount Street.  It also provides parking for motorbikes and other cars next to the Grade II* listed Grosvenor Chapel.


Of course it's important that the streetscape, particularly in a conservation area, is not flooded with too much street clutter, so I went down to the site to examine the area myself.  This is the scene just a few metres from the docking station site:


...at the other end of the small street there is a portable florist's kiosk on one side and the veranda of Harry's Bar which contains tables and patio heaters.  Hardly an exemplary area of conservation as yet untouched by modern city ways.

Mr Carroll seems objecting to the installation on the basis that the cycle docking station will deface "our beautiful conservation area".  Clearly these concerns were not at the forefront of his mind in 2007 when he saught planning permission to demolish a glass conservatory in the lightwell of his apartment building in neighbouring South Street and replace it with an onion-domed 'water garden' conservatory which was twice as wide, and over a metre higher than the existing structure.  Two of his neighbours wrote to the planning board at this time objecting that the design of the structure would alter the appearence of their lised building, would block light from their own homes, was too large for the space and was not in keeping with the Conservation Area.  It would appear Mr Carroll overlooked his own concerns for civc aesthetics when it came to building something for himself.

I suspect that Mr Carroll's primary objection to the cycle docking station can be summed up by his statement: "It would not be a very pretty sight."  The station will be in front of Harry's Bar, one of the most exclusive private member's clubs in London.  For the princely annual fee of £750 per annum (plus £250 joining fee) members are able to sit on the bar's veranda and overlook the parked cars, florists stall and motorbikes presently cluttering South Audley Street.  According to the Evening Standard, Mr Carroll is a member of this club.  Could his objection to the docking station really be because he'd rather look at expensive cars ("horrible lumps of metal" indeed) from the terrace of his private member's club than a rack of bicycles available for all to use?


People in glass houses, Mr Carroll, shouldn't throw stones.  Let's hope the High Court sees his challenge to the docking station for what it is and dismisses his appeal and allows the installation of something which could be truly beneficial to the whole community to go ahead. 

In much more happy news relating to the cycle hire scheme (which I, for one, can't wait to see installed in my neighbourhood and near my office), here's a photo of just some of the 6000 bikes being prepped at a north London workshop in anticipation for their release on July 30th:

11 comments:

au├čerirdischesindgesund said...

Another possibility would be, that he cares less about the bicycles, and more about the parking area "lost". If they installed flowerpots or a large scupture he would probably complain too.

Bransby said...

One suspects Mr. Carroll is just a twat.

Mark said...

Eloquently put, Bransby.

h2clubs said...
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theonlyrick said...
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Anonymous said...

I am a planner and a London cyclist. I am quite looking forwards to these things being built as I will be able to cycle to English Heritage on a rental bike rather than fail to find a decent parking spot when I get there.

An application on the scale of the cycle scheme - across London - unquestionably meets the thresholds requiring a full environmental impact assessment. TFL have done the work with a series of separate applications, one for each site. In many cases the sites have actually been built in the wrong places and revised applications will be needed. The whole application process has been very rushed and potentially open to legal challenge.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

And someone who cannot work a comments box.

Mark said...

Thanks everyone for your comments; you'll all be pleased to hear that Mr Carroll's request for an appeal was thrown out of the High Court yesterday as having 'no merit'. He can still revert to the Court of Appeal if he likes, but to be honest I don't think he'd get very far and wonder why he'd bother to waste his money.

Thank you, Anonymous planner, for the inside info about other planning applications: I will be keeping a very eager eye on developments.

@theonlylyrick The photos are mine, as is the dirt digging about Mr Carroll's own 'beautification' of the area: it's amazing what you can find with a bit of time, persistence and Google!

McKney McMick said...

Excellent article... about as clear-cut case of NIMBYism and anti-cyclist arseh*lery as can be found in modern Britain. I can only hope the next Critical Mass decides in its collective wisdom to visit this charming locale... all bells blazing.

Mark said...

Ooh, McKney McMick, now THERE'S an idea :o)